||[Oct. 25th, 2009|02:02 pm]
This is my on-line archive of my stuff that I need to be able to reference.
You can either scroll down to read the pieces, or click on the links in this entry
This is for my writings, not anyone elses - so comments are disabled. If you want to comment, you can e-m me.
A performancepoem on endism, warmism and terrorism
An encounter with Roy Bhaskar - thought by some to be a great philosopher
Based on talk given at South Place Ethical Society, 1 June, 2008. Forthcoming in The Ethical Record
A surprising finding at a focus group
More reflections on the land of Ruskania
Review of Philip Roth's The Plot Against America, discussed at the SPES book club in March. Published in the April 2007 ish of The Ethical Record.
Why the NSDAP take on him was more correct than that of the liberals and pomos.
Outline of my course at Conway Hall, 10 October 2006.
My encounter with the Nazis at Ruskin College - a place with a reputation for political activism.
Outline of my course which began 30 May 2006
Jung and Gender CategoriesText of talk given to Philosophy for All 'Feminism and Philosophy', then to South Place Ethical Society, 7 May 2006,Conway Hall, London.
How Ruskin College's leading academic betrayed history.
Jointly written comment on Marx being voted in a BBC R4 poll the greatest philosopher of all time.
A piece of hyped charlatanry written for a market.
Reply to handout 'Introduction to Marx' by sociology tutor at Ruskin College.
Review of essays by pioneer of Gay Liberation.
A 'Dada' event at the V & A.
Sixties Leftism as the last gasp of Leninism.
The origin of this notion in a work whose function was entirely tactical.
An attempt to throttle a jellyfish.
A Marxist/Situationist reading.
Jointly written critique of Callinicos' Equality.
TV history programme on state surveillance of Trot and Stalinist leftists - it shows that in practice their sensibility was complicit with the ideology of the business-class.
Review of Hayman's hagiography of Carl Jung. (pdf)
A Communist Defence of a householder convicted of murder after shooting burglars. (pdf)
The Levellers' Day heritagefest and the appearance of fascism at Ruskin College.
Critical Review of book on a subjectivist aesthetics of photography.
Why such a fuss, when there seems so little warrant for it in the words of God?
A wierd defence of Lenin, from a modish philosopher.
'The Archers'and the End of History.
Comments on a wonderful, funny, brilliant and surprising movie.
A Gathering of apparatchniks from the Culture Studies Industry.
A story by Arthur C Clarke which was so right and so wrong.
The bisexualist sensibility as a metaphor for liberalism.
The liberal falsification of Nietzsche, contrasted with his own words.
||[May. 12th, 2009|08:46 am]
Dialectic of Bhanality
Notes on a talk by Roy Bhaskar, with some general reflections on dialectics and musing on the person (rather a person) and the political
My main worry was that I would be 'converted' and that the evening would end with me saying to M what an important thinker this guy was, and how he was the way forward. Ah … I jump ahead of myself. Friday of a few weeks ago the Oxford Philosophy Society had a talk by P on the work of Roy Bhaskar. It seemed to me, and it seemed to others, that there was summat cultic going on here. Indeed, one of the members asked about Bhaskar 'is he charismatic?'. The evasive reply included the strange remark that 'he wears pink socks' (hang onto your seats folks, this is gonna be a rough ride). Bhaskar is a philosopher, who 30 years ago, published A Realist Theory of Science, which argues - against positivism and relativism - that the project of science does indeed, as plain folk like me think, give access to real structures and dynamics which exist independently of our actions as subjects. He subsequently widened his work to write what his followers (note the word) claim is a major work: Dialectics - the Pulse of Freedom (which they refer to as 'DPF' - more on this later). In the last few years he’s bent the knee to the wonders of the mystic East and produced work which, to my eye, is indistinguishable from the banalities of Krishnamurti, the Bhagwan, Swami Biriani, and the rest of them.( Read more...Collapse )
||[May. 12th, 2009|07:41 am]
written and performed by
Script version 2.2
Performed @ Theatre in the £
The Cockpit Theatre, Gateforth St, Marylebone, London
6 January 2009
INTRODUCTION .. OR NOT - depending on how DM feels and how the audience feels to him. This could be of any length from 1 – 3 mins.
So all timings start from below
The year: 1929
The place: Paris, the banqueting room of a five star hotel.
A group of men in dinner suits sit round a table - important men, foreign secretaries.
On the table, a map of North Africa.
Those straight line boarders, as if drawn with a ruler …. they were drawn with a ruler.
A waiter approaches them - no, not a waiter, a man dressed as a waiter.
He walks to their table, opens his jacket, calmly levels a strange looking metallic object at them.
They look up, recognise him, they laugh.
Aristide Briande, French foreign secretary jokes:
'Ah, at last we can begin our conference, Erich Salomon is here'.
He photographs them and leaves.
Erich Salomon - pioneer photo-journalist, he begins that tradition where political conferences become events in The Spectacle.
Now: translate that scene to timepresent.
The waiter who is not a waiter opens his jacket.
Another waiter who is not a waiter opens his jacket and takes out a strange looking metallic object …
The first non-waiter is dead before he hits the floor - his chest stitched with a line of red nine-millimetre holes.
But the supposed translation is absurd.
You cannot imagine it.
No-one now could get that close to the foreign secretaries.
Yet in 1929 Europe was still warm with the embers of Red Revolution: Russia, Hungary, Italy, Germany.
The Bolshevik state was seen, by the business-class, as a threat to civilisation itself.
And yet, there were the welcoming smiles for the waiter who was not a waiter.
Yet now, we are … so we are told … at The End of History: that the rule of the megacorps is the final form of human society.
The only strategic issue: how to fine-tune the market – agreed on by all parties, from the Libdems on the Left to the Greens on the Right.
All futures are to be variants of timepresent: suitably spiced up by the appearance of whichever of the Four Horsemen offers the currently fashionable apocalypse.
Yet there could be no Erich Salomon.
So why are the foreign secretaries so scared ?
Is there something they are not telling us?
[ALL LIGHTS OUT for 10 secs]
[SINGLE SPOT ON DM]
Now come with me to another time – a time without history; as of course is our own.
To the time of that novel whose title gives us the most famous year in English Literature.
It is a bright cold day in April and the clocks are striking thirteen.
Winston Smith is about to begin his journal.
We move forward to the rally in Victory Square where the Inner Party orator is denouncing Eurasia – with whom Oceania is at war – and praising Eastasia – in alliance with Oceania.
A messenger hurries onto the podium and puts a note into the orator’s hand.
In mid-sentence Eurasia and Eastasia are transposed. Oceania is now, and always has been at war with Eastasia.
There was, of course, no admission that any change had taken place. Merely it became known, with extreme suddeness and everywhere at once that Eastasia and not Eurasia was the enemy.
But of what relevance is this now?
In these great postmodern times we cannot imagine anything remotely similar.
[LIGHTS OUT for 10secs
A SPOT FLICKERS FROM DM TO THE AUDIENCE, IT FLICKS ACROSS THE AUDIENCE.]
DM APPROACHES SEVERAL AUDIENCE MEMBERS AND UTTERS ONE SENTENCE TO EACH:
Surely you don’t believe in Absolute Truth ? !
There’s no such thing as Objectivity.
We all have our own points of view.
Reality is socially constructed.
[DM MOVES BACK TO CENTRE OF STAGE
LIGHTING CEASES TO FLICKER AND MOVE AND FOCUSSES ON DM]
Scientific progress is the replacement of one paradigm by another one, paradigms are incommensurable.
The world is made by the language we use to describe it.
All observation is theory-dependent.
What passes for knowledge is the effect of relations of power …
[AN AUDIENCE MEMBER SPRINGS UP
APPROACHES DM AND GIVES HIM A NOTE
DM GLANCES AT THE SLIP OF PAPER]
.. power which must be generated in a sustainable and environmentally-friendly way.
It is an incontrovertible fact that the planet faces an ecological crisis.
All scientific opinion agrees on ….
To deny the existence of …. is morally equivalent to Holocaust Denial.
…. a clear picture has emerged, supported by an overwhelming amount of evidence that Global Warming is occurring and is caused by human action.
[LIGHTS OUT for 10secs
We know, of course, what was behind the shift in Victory Square. On that day in late June 1941 the Communist Party of Great Britain decided that the British Empire was no longer fighting the second great imperialist war, but an anti-fascist war.
What about the shift just played out before you?
The answer is no mystery at all.
Global warming is so … warming.
Global warming is so cosy.
What more comforting than to believe that ‘Global warming is the greatest enemy of the world’s poor’.
So we’re all in it together.
No longer is the enemy of the poor what it always has been …. the world’s rich.
Not the slave owners
Not the lords
Not the factory bosses,
Not the megacorps
Not the stalinist bureaucracies
Rich and poor .. arm in arm facing a common enemy.
For Brits, for whom chat about the weather replaces conversation, it’s especially cosy.
Even more so, because it takes them back to those great days of the second great imperialist war when we were all in it together.
One for all, all for one, all doing our bit.
In the words of that great artist, Gracie Fields:
I’m the girl who makes the thing
that drills the hole
that holds the spring
that drives the rod
that turns the knob
that works the thingyumybob.
And I’m the girl that’s going to win the war
I’m the guy who’s changing the world.
I refuse plastic bags.
I make sure I put my trash in the correct box.
I agonise over my carbon footprint – though I couldn’t explain the difference between carbon dioxide and carbon dating.
[LIGHTS OUT for 10 secs
[DM TURNS 180º]
Now join with me in solemn homage to a man who did understand what it takes to change the world, and did change it – a great man named John,
slain one Fall in the America he so loved.
John loved truth.
John loved love.
Most of all – John loved freedom.
I do not refer to John Fitzgerald Kennedy.
John knew what is needed to end one order and make a new one.
John knew that marching in protest makes you feel so good.
He knew that singing rousing songs makes you feel so warm and righteous.
John knew that signing petitions makes you … a petioner.
John knew that all of it is wanking into the wind.
John knew that to make great change you must be ready to kill and be ready to die.
And John did both of those.
So it was a nice and fine irony that in the nation which Brits think knows no irony - they played his song.
They played his song when they gathered to mourn that fine September morning when - out of a clear blue sky - the chickens flew home to roost: and the Twin Towers went tumbling down.
The John of whom I speak is, of course, America’s most celebrated … terrorist:
John Brown – hanged December 1859.
His raid on the Harper’s Ferry Arsenal was meant to ignite a slave insurrection.
It failed – it became something greater:
The war against the slave owners.
It killed six hundred thousand - a lot in those days.
It took that many dead to end chattel slavery.
So when we think on how many must die in the wars to come to end wage slavery, it is little wonder that so many of us march up and down and sing rousing songs, and perform pieces like this.
Thank you for your attention.
||[Jul. 8th, 2008|03:46 pm]
War of the Worlds – Spielberg version
Notes on Interviews in the Bonus Disc
War of the Worlds reflects our post-9/11 fears but it also reflects another impulse that we really are human beings and we really do come together to help each other survive especially when we have a common enemy [George Pal’s] movies reflect our fear of the Soviet Union … this film has a special significance, this film mostly touches on how this much catastrophe can bring about that much healing. Our worlds gone through a lot of growing pains and we’re in a whole different mind-set, so I made this movie because I thought its time had come … again.
[What is remarkable about this is his failure to note that as a plain matter of historical fact the USA was not under the threat from the Sovs which was promoted in its propaganda – of which alien invasion movies were a part. The US state spoke of a ‘missile gap’ between itself and the USSR; there was a gap, but with the US having a massive superiority. In other words, Spielberg’s version is consciously part of the “War on Terror” propaganda – though he was likely disavow that it was such, that the US does not do propaganda in that way.
This should make us wonder even more on the significance of the alien tripods not arriving in space ships, but having been buried under the ground – for a ‘million years’, as one character opines.
We should also note two references to conspiracism:
1) In the crowd moving to the Hudson Ferry one refugee states that nothing has come out of Europe (implying that this is because Europe is complicit with the tripods), another that this because Europe has been devastated (these are flagged in the credits as, respectively, ‘conspiracy buff’ and ‘conspiracy debunker’).
2) The character, Harlan Ogilvy, who invites Ray and his daughter to share his cellar is a kind of ‘survivalist’ who asserts that the human race will prevail by going underground and rising up against the aliens. I don’t remember whether the solider in the novel had any specific referends, but this is clearly a reference to Survivalism and the militia movement. He is characterised as a nutter. He may have designs on Ray’s daughter, and is finally killed by Ray because his noisy hysteria is endangering their hideaway. The costume designer, Joanna Johnstone, discussing his costume refers to him as a ‘wife beater’ – no explanation, no context … it just makes no sense, it comes out of nowhere !]
I got this book on 9/11 with all these photos of the people covered in ash, and the state everyone was in and how it unified everyone in New York at that time … it was a similar thing like 9/11 and how it unified everyone to be one instead of being against each other and hating each other.
Justin Champman - ‘Robbie’, son of ‘Ray’, main character
[We’d be hard put to find a better statement of the conspiracist claim for the motivation of ‘9/11’ – yet there is no sense that Chapman sees anything problematic in this. He is making an analogy between a fiction (the movie) and a real event (“9/11”) and showing that they share a socio-dynamic which constructs unity. Yet it does not occur to him to question the evidential status of the official “9/11” narrative. If this uniting function is so obvious to him, an average US teen actor, might it not have been even more obvious to elements in the US state? This seems so to me, who disses conspiracism … but …. makes you think.]
One of the ugliest animals is crowd mentality, when a crowd acts as a single organism with a single purpose, to survive - it will destroy anything in its path to achieve its goals.
Steven Spielberg, discussing the scene where Ray’s car is attacked en route to the Hudson Ferry.
[It is remarkable that the same sensibility which values “social cohesion” has a deep distaste for the “crowd”, the “mob”. What this political imaginary wants is itself as the “mind” to that political body which is constituted by atomised individuals; its great fear is that these individuals should constitute themselves as a collective subject, because such would effect the end of the bourgeois state.]
The War of the Worlds sequence up on the hill it is a great example of collaboration between departments. You know, we would get missile launchers and give those missile launchers to Special Effects to create a pyrotechnic. We had real guns, so it was us collaborating with the military who would be firing those guns.
Doug Harlocker, property master
[This is a neat slippage between two senses of ‘department’: those within the movie company, and those within the Hegemony. It is a fine – even finer for being unconscious – recognition that Dreamworks and the USMC are both departments of the Iron Heel. Of course the latter does not have to give orders to the former, nor does Dreamworks take orders from the State. It does not have to; it does what it does ‘naturally’. That is the meaning of ideological hegemony. It never occurs to it to do anything different]
The Marine Corps came through with over a hundred guys. We had M1 tanks, Humvees, and LAV 25s. Everything you saw on that ridge line is real, those are real Marines, doing Marines’ jobs.
Major Joseph Todd Breasseale, military technical advisor.
Later on, commenting on the final scene when the tripods are collapsing he remarks that 80% of the military extras are on furlough from Iraq or Afghanistan.
[It would be difficult to imagine a better actualisation of the idea that alien invasion movies are really about ‘human aliens’ – the tradition of soldiers dehumanising the enemy could hardly be taken further. Whether at work or at play the military are fighting aliens.
The imagery of that final scene could not be less subtle. It occurs in Boston, detonator of the American Revolution. The camera pans around a statue of a Minuteman - encrusted with dead ‘red-weed' - to a tripod which has crashed into a building: both destroyed by Earth’s indigenous bacteria. The American Revolution is also referred to in the title - Independence Day - of the previous major movie of alien invasion. Again, in the back-story of Babylon 5 the trigger for the events which free the Galaxy from the struggle between the Vorlons and the Shadows is the Earth Force ship Lexington firing on the Minbari. Lexington was the town near Boston where occurred the armed engagement between the colonists and Brit troops which led to the War of Independence.
There is a kind of iconic scene of alien invasion, both in movies and on the covers of pulp SF mags: an Earth city being devastated by invincible alien craft firing energy beams, the alien warriors in space armour with disintegrator guns. Now think about those newsmovies of Stealth bombers attacking Baghdad, the Marines in Kevlar helmets and their M16s with IR sights and grenade launchers.
What these movies express is - in the strictest sense - a projection of the Iron Heel's role. ]
This film is really about how we all love our families.
Steven Spielberg, proposing a toast to the crew at the end of shooting.
[So this is both about an up-dating of the 50s Red Scare propaganda and that most banal of American virtues. These meld seamlessly in the movie, as of course they do in the political imaginary which speaks through it]
We don’t go into their motivation, we just experience the results of these nefarious plans to supplant us with themselves.
Steven Spielberg, commenting on the difference between these aliens, and the one in ET.
[During the first American war against Iraq the USMC’s required ‘book of the month’ reading was Sun Tsu’s The Art of War. One of the most celebrated maxims of this text is (quoting from memory) ‘The general who knows himself and his enemy will win a hundred battles’. Yet in W o t W the enemy is depicted as so utterly Other as to even be surprised by the wheel.
But I suppose one could deconstruct the meaning of the movie as being that if this is how you view the aliens then you certainly will not defeat them, because the downfall of the aliens is not effected by human agency, but by the Earth’s indigenous bacteria. Such a reading would have it that this is a warning voice within Liberal Imperialism]
The aliens have gone rogue, they’re rogue aliens, ET gone bad, ET gone rogue
Tom Cruise, commenting on the difference between the earlier Spielberg movie - ET - and the present one.
[He doesn’t comment on the sense which ‘rogue’ has acquired over the last decade or so: ‘rogue state’ – first applied, I think, to Saddam’s Iraq.]
No-one comments on the change that is made from Wells’ ending where the alien-destroying microbes are just there, to the voice-over which refers to God. His great-grandson remarks on the ‘extraordinary prescience’ of Wells seeing the interconnectedness of life and the necessity of all parts of it.
The idea that nature in some way knows a hell of a lot more than we do is an
idea that will last forever
||[Jun. 9th, 2008|03:07 pm]
The Archers and Conservatism’s alienation from 'Time present'
It is sometimes remarked that in the present time it is difficult to be a Communist; it is less often noted that it seems to be as difficult to be a Conservative – by which I mean that sensibility which speaks through such writers as the philosopher Roger Scruton, the historian Andrew Roberts, and the commentators Theodore Dalrymple and Peter Hitchens. The purpose of what follows is to demonstrate the strangeness of Conservative alienation and to suggest the outline of an explanation for this. I do so by focussing on Peter Hitchen’s distaste for The Archers.
Few would argue that the formative moment in modern Englishness was that event usually referred to as ‘The Second World War’. One of the most remarkable products of the British Propaganda Apparatus of that moment was the fine movie Went the Day Well? (1942). This is framed by the viewer visiting the village of Bramley End after the defeat of Germany and being invited into its churchyard by ‘a local’. Our cicerone directs us to a gravestone which marks ‘the only bit of Britain which Jerry ever took’: the grave of those German soldiers killed in an attempt to establish a forward base in England. The narrative then shifts backwards in time (and a feared future time for its contemporary viewers) to the arrival in Bramley End of a German unit disguised as British troops. The story then unfolds of the discovery that these soldiers are actually Germans, and their defeat by the villagers. A key element in this tale is that the elite of that community, the squire, was a traitor. This treason of the elite echoed one of the great polemics of the war, Michael Foot’s The Guilty Men. Its portrayal of the community coming together looked forward to the ‘national-popular consensus’ (the phrase is Antonio Gramsci’s) on which Attlee’s Labour Party surged to victory in the Summer of 1945.
What is remarkable about this movie is its choice of the kind of community which represented England as a whole: not a coal-mining village; not the East End of London; not a factory; not a shipyard – but a village based upon one in Gloucestershire. Stanley Baldwin once remarked that ‘the countryside is England and England is the countryside’; this was clearly felt to be such a commonsensical view that the only contemporary movie which depicted an England invaded took a small country village as the figure for England.
Eight years later the village of Bramley End was, effectively, resurrected in the village of Ambridge, the centrepiece of the longest-running radio serial ever – The Archers - though (at the time) without a squire. Just as Bramley End figured for England as one moment in its history, so Ambridge has over the following decades become a figure for the ‘official’ England of the imagination. To regard The Archers as being, what it was once announced as, ‘an everyday story of country-folk’ is to entirely miss the point. The Archers is not about the ‘actually existing’ countryside, though naïve critics – such as Peter Hitchens and most contributors to the BBC Archers discussion forum - often behave as though it were. A better way to grasp its epistemic modality is by taking it that:
realism is not so much a matter of direct comparison with the Real World …but of the way in which soap opera partakes of, and contributes to, all the different ways in which we make sense of the Real World.
Of course, it might be felt that The Archers
is just another soap. However this ignores both its origin and its content. It began as part of a state campaign to induce farmers to modernise methods and to increase output (SMETHURST Archers
, Ch 1). The texture of The Archers
is woven from a number of central themes in the English polity and culture 
The Archers and present-day British culture
The inheritance of its farms is sometimes fraught, but always resolved with no breach in continuity. This echoes the success of the British state in avoiding those Continental convulsions which have so shocked the conservative sensibility. Both monarchical and governmental changes are managed swiftly, yet without revolutionary discontinuities.
The success of the British state in preserving (often invented) traditions is in tension with that revolutionary societal process born in the UK: the generalised production of commodities - capitalism. The farms of Ambridge are situated in a space structured between the poles of use-value and exchange-value. Bridge Farm is organic and lives the illusion that it produces use-values. Home Farm, at the opposite end of the axis, is run by rapacious and cynical Brian Aldridge, it is self-consciously a business enterprise which embraces globalisation. At the median is Brookfield, home of the Archer family. Unusually amongst soaps, or indeed any mass-media productions, its characters discuss political and ethical issues. The commonest theme is the morality of profit.
The longevity of the English ruling elite is often ascribed, at least in part, to its success in incorporating dissident groups. The Archers has the recurring theme of the eccentric figure who travels to the centre. There was Pat Archer, Greenham Common protestor and pioneer organic farmer, now a pillar of the village . Her son, Tom, carried on this tradition by moving from eco-terrorism to business, and is now associated with the farmer whose GM crops he once trashed. The most significant marginal figure who moves to the core is Nigel Pargetter, scion of an ancient family –we will return to him.
However, it is the place of religion in The Archers which most clearly expresses how this fictional "community" is an emanation of the self-construction of 'official' English identity . In other words: The Archers is not at all 'about' the real England, its object is the English political imaginary. The religion of Ambridge's priest is a post-modernist multi-faithism whose only article of faith is faith in .... Faith. Its only behavioural imperative is a vague do-goodery: fair-trade, help the hungry, pray for peace and so on. . Though attendance at church is now at a historic low, the UK remains the only major European nation with an official church - The Church of England. So it is significant that religion plays an important role in the community of Ambridge. However, this is not that traditional Christianity, whose decline is so mourned by conservatives. Ambridge's vicar is a committed progressivist and is about to marry Hindu solicitor Usha Gupta. The only characters who espouse traditional religion are portrayed as being at best eccentric, if not outright bigots.
However, there is another religion in Ambridge: one which is a way of life, impacting on all actions; one which permits of no doubt and no dispute. It is
also, in effect, the new state religion of Britain, one of whose foremost proselytisers is the BBC itself. Although the commonsense of our culture is an extreme relativism, this doctrine is promoted with a ruthless absolutism. Its chief spokesman in Ambridge is former playboy Nigel Pargetter, who every month sounds in tone and content more and more like Prince Charley. That religion, of course, is greenism, ecoism, environmentalism, what Christopher Booker calls
. The wheel has come full-circle: Bramley End again has its squire.
The Archers is the official imaginative construction of the most stable of the great European polities, a nation which last experienced a constitutional rupture in 1688 – an event which even its Conservatives refer to as 'The Glorious Revolution', a state which commanded a far greater empire than its long-time rival France and yet shed it with far less trauma. And yet The Archers is loathed by Conservatives.
Here is a sample of the views of Daily Mail
columnist Peter Hitchens 
Even soap operas are used as a form of propaganda. Leading producers of these programs believe it is their moral duty to enlighten the world, particularly in sexual morality. You simply will not find conservative characters portrayed sympathetically in any of these soap operas. Take the popular radio soap The Archers
, which is set in a rural area: The characters all talk like suburban liberals. They use metric measurements, which nobody uses. They even use Celsius temperatures, which nobody understands. 
There is surely something very odd about this. At one level this is merely an extension of Europhobia and anti-modernity. Hitchens' bonkers comments on metric and Celsius echo his demented venom in The Abolition of Britain on the decline in the wearing of leather shoes and the popularity of trainers. However, it seems to me that there is something more interesting going on here. I suggest that there is a parallel between the conservative loathing for the sensibility expressed in and by The Archers and the pervasive notion that English culture is anti-technological and non-military.
The Archers' imagining of England as rural is not at all eccentric. There is a long
tradition of culture-commentary which identifies the hegemonic English self-image as centred on the rural 
A recent and massively influential statement of the ruralist nature of the English self-image is Martin Weiner's English Culture and the Decline of the Industrial Spirit (1981) – a work taken up by the Thatcherist Right as part of its attack on the Establishment and its promotion of market values, as against Tory and Labourist paternalism. Weiner argues that though England was the origin of the capitalist order, effective development of business and scientifically informed industry was crippled by a culture which was deeply oriented to the past, regarded technology and commerce with equal distaste and which subverted the entrepreneurial values of the new business class by incorporating the offspring of this class into traditional aristocratic ruralism.
This is a persuasively argued work, illustrated by extensive quotations from literature and political rhetoric. Its argument is echoed by military historian Correlli Barnett in his Pride and Fall quartet; this ascribes the decline of British power to the corrosive values of an evangelical Christianity which weakened the grasp on hard political reality supposedly possessed by statesmen of earlier times. He regards the Labour Government of 1945 as the outcome of this: an administration which spurned the historic window of opportunity presented by a devastated Germany and instead used its resources to build the Welfare State, rather than for developing a new industrial base.
The works of Weiner and of Barnett have a great appeal and were hugely influential in the thinking of Margaret Thatcher and Keith Joseph; they speak that pervasive commonsense which bemoans the frequency with which native inventions are developed abroad and laments the poorness of English technical education compared to that across the Channel. However, there is a major problem with the Weiner/Barnett thesis: It is false.
An Inverted Vision
In the words of W D Rubinstein:
each of [the declinist theses] .. is wrong - and not merely wrong, but arguably the very opposite of the truth (RUBINSTEIN Capitalism p3)
He shows that Weiner's evidence of the alleged ruralism of High Culture is unconnected with any demonstration that this was echoed in the popular sensibility or that it had the effects ascribed to it. He further shows that the claimed deracination produced by the public schools on the offspring of the business-class must be exaggerated because of the small proportion of these who actually attended that institution. Crucially, he points out that no-one reading Barnett's protracted lament for the decline of British power and its alleged technical inefficiency, in relation to that of Germany, would gather from Pride and Fall that the UK had been victorious in both world wars of the 20th Century. Linda Colley may exaggerate in remarking that the British state not loosing any of its major wars since the American War of Independence is the ‘essential cause’ of its ‘peculiar social and political stability’ (COLLEY Britons p148); but it is clearly a major factor.
The historian David Edgerton makes a similar criticism of Barnett. He shows the hollowness of the legend that the British state has been effete, technologically backward and infected by pacifist illusions. On the contrary, the British state has consistently focussed on high tech armed force in the service of `liberal militarism'. The strategy of liberal militarism is: reliance on a relatively small professional army; the use, initially, of naval power to blockade enemy ports and, later, massive air strikes against cities. The development of nuclear weapons was the logical and necessary outcome of this (EDGERTON 'Liberal'; EDGERTON 'Prophet');
In other words, there is a pervasive and systemic misrecognition and
misrepresentation of the nature of British power which echoes the fantasy that the essence of England is rural. Stanley Baldwin, though he presented himself as a countryman, was in fact an innovative industrialist who had studied metallurgy (WILLIAMSON Baldwin
. It is no accident that the most potent uses of the imagery of England as rural have occurred precisely when it was engaged in 'total war': The infantry who fought and died on the Western Front in what is known as ‘The First World War’ were overwhelmingly from industrial towns and cities, yet were portrayed as country lads (see
pp145-150). To see just how far removed the ruralist legend is from the reality – even the reality as perceived by the British state – let us return to Bramley End. There would, surely, have been many in the countryside who would have accommodated themselves to the Third Reich. The military effectiveness of the Special Auxiliary Units would have been slight, but their terrorist attacks on the occupiers would have provoked savage reprisals of the kind which would engender hostility towards the German forces .
The Alternative ?
Returning to Conservatism’s distaste for the hegemonic culture: One of the most insightful parts of The Abolition of Britain is Hitchens' discussion of the pervasive phenomenon of sham rebellion, fake eccentricity and radical posturing. He shows –and it's not hard to show – that the figures who parade as the outsiders, the free spirits, the unconventional are merely part of the spectacle. The druggie rock stars and the music they produce, the cutting-edge artists 'questioning' everything except the absurd prices paid for their trash are as much a part of the 'loyal opposition' as the Labour Party has always been.
However, Hitchens is not merely offering a criticism, he is urging a reconstruction of traditional values. And it is here that there is curious absence in his book, one which parallels a major weakness in Barnett’s assault on ‘The New Jerusalemists’ who allegedly enfeebled the British state.
Part of the evaluation of a course actually taken must be the consideration of the alternatives: But what realistic alternative was available to the Labour Government in 1945? In fact, there was none. There is absolutely no way in which what Barnett suggests was the rational course of action could have been undertaken. It would not have been tolerated by the populace and could not have been seriously contemplated by the British elite. Quintin Hogg famously remarked at the time that 'If you do not give the people reform, they will give you revolution' – an attempt to action Barnett's economic strategy may not have led to revolution, but would surely have led to massive unrest.
Analogously, what kind of cultural politics does Hitchens advocate? He paints a picture of the England which responded to two funerals: that of Winston Churchill in 1965 and of Diana Spencer in 1997. The former was structured around a culture of deference, respect for authority coupled with a sturdy individualism and acceptance of eccentricity, it valued self-restraint and duty. The England which mourned the death of Diana has jettisoned all these values: It appears to be in a state of ‘permanent revolution’ which yet never questions itself; it valorises free expression, individualism and novelty; it revels in a culture of trash and admires nothing so much as victimhood.
But what is culture for? The origin of that word provides the answer: it is for the construction - the cultivation - of persons with the characteristics necessary for the reproduction of the fundamental power relations of that societal order. The return to ‘traditional values’ which Peter Hitchens advocates is impossible simply because that which he condemns is actually in the service of the politico-economic order which he himself is a defender of 
. That cultural commonsense which can variously be characterised as nihilist, relativist, postmodernist is itself a conservative culture just because it undermines any possibility of a point of critical distance from the culture itself. Hitchens correctly shows that this culture thrives on the endless production of fake rebellion, yet his own criticism, his own alienation from the given, is just as much a sham opposition. His position cannot be part of any solution, because it is part of the problem.
BARNETT Audit: Correlli Barnett, The Audit of War, Papermac, 1987
BOOKER & NORTH Scared: Christopher Booker and Richard North, Scared to Death – From BSE to Global Warming: How Scares Are Costing Us the Earth, Continuum, 2007
BRUNSDON'Feminism': Charlotte Brunsdon, ‘Feminism and Soap Opera’, in Kath Davies et al (eds.), Out of Focus – Writings on Women and the Media, The Women’s Press, 1987
COLLEY Britons: Linda Colley, Britons - Forging the Nation: 1707-1837, Yale University Press, 2005
EDGERTON 'Liberal': David Edgerton,'Liberal Militarism and the British State', New Left Review, no 185, 1991
EDGERTON 'Prophet': David Edgerton,'The Prophet Militant and Industrial', Twentieth Century British History, vol 2, no 3, 1991
FOX English: Kate Fox, Watching the English – The Hidden Rules of English Behaviour, Hodder, 2004
HEATH & POTTER Rebel: Joseph Heath & Andrew Potter, The Rebel Sell, Capstone Publishing, 2005
HITCHENS Abolition: Christopher Hitchens, The Abolition of Britain - The British Cultural Revolution from Lady Chatterly to Tony Blair, Quartet, 1999
PAXMAN English: Jeremy Paxman, The English – A Portrait of a People, Penguin, 1999
ROBERTS & FERGUSON'Germany': Andrew Roberts and Niall Ferguson, ‘What if Germany had invaded Britain in May 1940?’, in Niall Ferguson (ed.), Virtual History – Alternatives and Counterfactuals, Papermac, 1997
RUBINSTEIN Capitalism: W D Rubinstein, Capitalism, Culture, and Decline in Britain 1750 - 1990, Routledge, 1993
SMETHURST Archers: William Smethurst, The Archers: The True Story,Michael O’Mara Books Limited, 1996
WiEner M English: Martin J. Wiener, English Culture and the Decline of the Industrial Spirit: 1850 –1980, CUP, 1981
WILLIAMSON Baldwin: Stanley Baldwin - Conservative leadership and national values, Cambridge University Press, 1999
 For a sense of just how much the minutiae of its characters’ lives conforms to the image of Englishness, see FOX English – a book which is not merely about the supposed English character, but an expression of it.  For the ways in which thermoscepticism is suppressed in the ‘media’ see Christopher Booker’s column in The Sunday Telegraph and BOOKER & NORTH Scared
 He is a Conservative who hopes that the party which bears this name will lose the next General Election – as only this will force it to reconstruct itself in accord with its presumed essence. The comical parallels of this with the Labour Party thirty years ago would be thought implausible if they featured in a soap.  Interviewed by The American Enterprise Online
<www.taemag.com/issues/articleid.17392/article detail.asp> Accessed 28 May 2008
See also, HITCHENS Abolition pp 262-4. This book is a fine expression of that sensibility which is what I refer to as ‘Conservative’.
 For a recent discussion of this, see ch 8 of PAXMAN English
 It has often been said that Margaret Thatcher was the first British PM with a scientific background. The example of Baldwin shows that this claim is itself part of the ruralist legend.
 For a contrary view see ROBERTS & FERGUSON 'Germany'.  Part of this point is captured in Herbert Marcuse’s notion of ‘repressive tolerance’. For a similar argument, see HEATH & POTTER Rebel. I will develop this argument elsewhere in a critical discussion of Daniel Bell's The Cultural Contradictions of Capitalism.
|Bad News for the Greenazis
||[May. 4th, 2008|07:45 pm]
A couple of weeks ago I attended a focus group for a public utility which is seeking to fine-tune its next business-plan. This was interesting for three things which I had expected and one thing which I had not expected, and was delighted by.
1) The purpose of the event became clear in the final session: each of the eleven groups (each composed of ten + facilitator) was asked to choose one out of four strategies. In fact only one of the options was – on the information presented - remotely viable: two of the ‘options’ actually disqualified themselves because they would have not met the legal obligations of the firm. Every group, of course, chose the preferred option - giving excellent reasons for doing so, based on the ‘information’ provided by the firm. This was a fine example of the process of generating a manipulated agreement.
2) In discussion about subsidising the poorest consumers it became clear just how deeply the thatcherist sensibility has sunk into ‘common-sense’. The discourse about scroungers and the importance of individual responsibility (one person explained how important it was to stop kids dropping litter) melded seamlessly with that discourse which manages to present itself both as ‘alternative’ and as the new state religion: the anthrogenic theory of alleged global warming.
3) The documentation for the focus group made much of ‘climate change’. What this term denoted was, of course, ‘Global Warming’. As the Warmists become aware that their thesis has more holes than Saturn has rings, so they have shifted their key trope to ‘climate change’. By this means they use a banality (climate changes, that is what it does) to gain assent for a contested hypothesis (global warming is occuring and is due to human action). The political use of this dogma is to micro-manage individual behaviour, using the rhetoric of individual responsibility (turn off the tap when tooth-brushing and save the planet).
When I took the opportunity at question time to ask why so much was made of something for which the evidence is so slim, the reply from the firm’s executive was that ‘we live in a society which accepts Climate Change, it is accepted by all the main political parties’. In a way, of course, he was correct. This was why I was so cheered by:
4) In my group I argued for thermoscepticism and asked for a show of hands on who accepted the Warmist claim. A vote was taken, despite the attempt of the facilitator to block this with the predictable bullshit that ‘it doesn’t matter what caused it, we need to do something about it’. Three accepted that global warming is occurring, three did not, and the rest were undecided. I was astonished and delighted by this.
Only three people out of ten accepted the Warmist claim !! This … even though it now has the status of a secular religion. Its agenda is promoted by all wings of the Propaganda Apparatus. It is endorsed by an endless parade of media whores. It is a major part of the indoctrination of children. The alternistas are at one with the Daily Mail in sliding from apocalypticism to calling for a ban on plastic bags. Anyone who questions Warmism is demonised as the moral equivalent of a Holocaust denier. Al Gore’s science-fiction movie An Inconvenient Truth is raved over by the alternistas. The illusion that there is a scientific consensus is maintained by massively biasing media time against the dissenters.
So, despite the relentless and ruthless propaganda for Warmism, there is at least some reason to think that there is major scepticism. Warmism is now promoted by all the procap parties – some may worry that this signals a further disaffection from the ‘political process’. It is especially bad news for the Green Party, of which the only serioius question is not whether it is procap, but to what extent it is proto-nazi.
Some of us will regard this as the best news for some while.
||[Jun. 13th, 2007|07:29 am]
Letter to a Friend who bandies the term 'Political Correctness'
I think that you would strengthen your case (whichever one it happens to be) if you refrained from using the ridiculous phrase 'political correctness'. I know that I’m not the only person whose first feeling on seeing this is that I will not bother to read whatever text contains it. Because the use of that phrase usually signals a voice which, comically, echoes that victim-stance of which it so often complains and whines that ‘white, het, middle-class men can be victims too’. This usually boils down to the speaker pretending to feel oppressed because of disapproval of sexist comments re women, and use of words like 'nigger' and 'shirt-lifter'. Its use is so often prefaced by ‘I’m sorry, but …’; followed by something like ‘I know it’s politically incorrect to say so, but there was slavery in Africa long before Europeans got there’ - as if the speaker were being a brave heretic, whilst actually mouthing a commonplace (which also obscures the main point). I choose this example for you because of your odious apologetics for slavery. However, I do feel somewhat as you do regarding this sensibility which this phrase tries to capture - what follows is a first attempt to try to work this out.
What seems not to be noticed by people who use the phrase is the bizarre fact that ‘politically correct’ is the only political label which is solely used pejoratively of someone else. All of the following may be used neutrally, pejoratively, or accepted as self-identity: liberal, socialist, communist, stalinist, trotskyist, nationalist, anarchist, fascist, national-socialist, racist, feminist, masculinist, conservative, reactionary, pacifist … and doubtless others which don’t come to mind at present. But no-one will say, except ironically: 'I’m Politically Correct'. There is surely something very strange about this asymmetry.
It might be worthwhile considering the genealogy of this term. The entry in Wikipedia is useful here :
The term "political correctness" is said to derive from Marxist-Leninist vocablary [sic] to describe the "party line". By the 1970s this term, re-appropriated as a satirical form of criticism, was being used by some on the Left to dismiss the views of other Leftists whom they deemed too doctrinaire and rigid. It was in this sense that the popular usage of the phrase in English derived
One of the references in this is to an American conservative who claims that ‘Political Correctness’ is a form of ‘cultural marxism’ , on the basis that it derives from the work of the Frankfurt School. I won’t go into this, other than to note that ‘Political Correctness’ would be comprehended by anyone who stands on the shoulders of the giants of Critical Theory (as I attempt to) as a nuance within that cultural hegemony whose core position that the societal order structured around the wagelabour/capital relation is the final form of human association.
However, this remark is on to something very important in seeing that the origin of ‘Political Correctness’ is in the culture of Euro-American Stalinism. This was a culture which interwove with a seemingly very different culture - that which would now be called the ‘alternative culture’. I’m really at a loss as to how to adequately characterise this, my gut instinct uses phrases like ‘do-gooders’, ‘knee-jerk liberals’ - both of which I’m uncomfortable with as they come from a conservative voice. But then conservatives do so often see things far more clearly than liberals. There is a very perceptive account of this ‘structure of feeling’ in an essay by R.A.D. Grant on Edmund Burke. Grant discusses the prescience of Burke's portrayal of 'the revolutionary and his radical fellow-traveller':
restless hyperactivity, as though to sit still were to concede one's insignificance; the hidden scorn for those one pretends to act for; ... the bogus humanitarianism; the exploitation of genuine distress; ... the clamour .. for the most truckling appeasement of one's country's known and professed enemies.(Conservative Thinkers, ed. Roger Scruton)
It is no accident that one of the most savage pictures of this early ‘alternative culture’ as ‘vegetarian, sandal-wearing, fruit-juice drinkers’ (I quote from memory) came from the author of one of the most powerful denunciations of the culture of British Stalinism - George Orwell. Though I think we must accept many of the reservations about him which deepened in successive assessments of him by Raymond Williams, we should respect the central fact that Orwell did fight in a civil war as a revolutionary communist. Part of his contempt came from the fact that it was the ancestors of today’s ‘politically correct’ who refused to publish his dispatches from Spain exposing the treachery of the Stalinists - this was done in the name of ‘unity’. The will to unity and to obliterate in rhetoric real contradictions (now carried out in the name of ‘multi-culturalism’) is really central to this sensibility which is so poorly characterised as 'political correctness'.
The accusation of racism
However, you - and those like you - so often construct yourselves as victims. Regarding the funding by Oxford Council of the Asian Cultural Centre, you write in one of your e-ms ‘To oppose these politically correct policies would be universally seen as racist’. Now this is self-evidently absurd: You object to this, but do not regard yourself as racist. You should know that I do not regard this as a racist statement (which does not preclude the motive behind its utterance being racist – though that does not concern me here). What you are doing is setting up a straw man, which actually gets in the way of coming to terms with the phenomenon it refers to.
I myself take any opportunity to declare my opposition to state funding of mossie schools; I regard rap and hiphop music as barbaric thuggery and - as an ex-private tutor - have no doubts that a major factor in the scholastic under-achievement of black britons is parental behaviour. Admittedly, it is easier for me than for many others to do this (though, inconsistently, I argue that a person’s biography is irrelevant to the authorial voice) due partly to having sustained a permanent, though minor, disablement in a street fight with the National Front some years ago. More recently, I was the only person at Ruskin College to denounce its proselytising nazis. Indeed, it was my experience with the scum there who espouse the attitudes which you characterise as ‘politically correct’ which fuels my detestation for them.
If you wanted a sit-com to satirise ‘political correctness’ then - lest you were a new Dickens - you could not better that stew of jaded teachers who have read nothing new in the last twenty years and their semi-literate students who barely read the photocopied course handouts, secure in the knowledge that if they fail their assessments they need only go to the nice ladies at ‘Learning Support’, be found to be ‘dyslexic’ and have their marks magically levitated.
The Land of Ruskania
The very quintessence of Ruskania (google <nairn+musil+kakania> if that is obscure) is sociology lecturer (indeed, a lecturer, not a teacher), Mavis Bayton, who looks like a character out of Viz, habitually dressed like Ronald McDonald, with culottes and horizontally striped socks, attempting to state in her dress a difference which is denied in her practice. Like so many of her kind she is a health-freak, once berating a student (not me) for daring to come into her class after having been smoking outside in the open - he still had some atoms of smoke on his breath. The door of her room was covered with ‘right-on’ posters, and adverts for whatever was the cause-of-the-month; one of her icons was the Stalinist gangster Nelson Mandela.
She was favoured by some students because of her promotion of the shamradicalism of Peter Berger’s Invitation to Sociology - A Humanistic Perspective : an intellectually shallow legitimisation of the relativism which is now the commonsense of the Hegemony, and actively promoted by the discourse of the Propaganda Apparatus. It offered back to these morons, tarted up in bad academese what they anyway took for granted. The students she specially favoured were the most semi-literate who she could patronise. Many of the rest she bored with her tales of the ‘good old days’ of the 60s and 70s when she lived in communes (here she was rivalled and complemented by the tales of ex-Trot Bob ‘Preacher’ Purdy of his days with the bourgeois nationalists of the IRA).
In the first year course she taught she would tell her students as a fact that Sociology had discovered that the reason for the disproportionate number of young black men in prison was ‘institutionalised racism’ (not obviously congruent with Berger’s thesis that ‘all reality is socially constructed’). Several of her students (some of the few who actually cared about such matters) dared to suggest that just perhaps this was because young black men actually committed (relative to their numbers) a disproportionate number of crimes. Some actually referred to their experience, on the street, and in estates, of the behaviour of young black males. These guys were dismissed as ‘racists’ and told that ‘hundreds of studies’ confirmed her view. She was beyond parody as an exemplar of that liberal type who tolerates any position except one which contradicts their own (again, it is a conservative writer who, to my awareness, best captures this: Peter Hitchens in his The Abolition of Britain). There is something about her which reminds me of the comic character Parsons, in Nineteen Eighty Four : Not very bright, but gushingly enthusiastic for whatever nonsense the Party enjoins him to believe in, always ready with a handy slogan and on the look-out for ‘thoughtcrime’.
I was briefly a representative of my course (History, not Sociology) on some consultative council or other. Maeve (like so many shamradical teachers she enjoyed the diminutive as showing how right-on she was) was always the most assiduous to brown-nose the college dean in promoting any new initiative to both bureaucratise teaching and be nondiscriminatory to those students who, on any reasonable basis, should not have been there at all. One comic incident was a directive that hand-outs be printed on coloured paper because this was supposedly helpful to those ‘suffering from dyslexia’. I intervened to say that our class had discussed this and decided that puce was the best shade. This nonsense was, of course, taken seriously.
There is a fine characterisation of the real attitude of Bayton and Ruskin to academic work in Geoffrey Hawthorn’s Enlightenment and Despair (Cambridge University Press, 1976): he remarks that in 1909 the American Sociological Association explained the rise in interest in sociology as being the need for 'instruction of practical use in reform. Most students were uninterested in theoretical matters' (191). Bayton’s teaching was entirely third-hand, parotting canards such as Hegel’s ‘thesis, antithesis, synthesis’ and that Weber used the phrase ‘iron cage’ – stuff she picked up from textbooks by writers who had never read the originals, regurgitated by students and marked as correct by equally ignorant examiners.
Like all the other shamradicals she was silent over the outrage of a student playing the marching music of the Liebstandarte SS at a student union disco and his friend publishing in the student journal an article calling for a new Shoah. She, nor any of the rest of those wankers, offered me any support when the college issued me with a ‘final written warning’ for ‘having brought the college into disrepute’ by denouncing the nazis, the silence of the student body, ‘union’ and staff at Burford Leveller’s Day. (see http://david-murray.livejournal.com/8960.html?mode=reply)The Dean of Ruskania defended the publication of the article on the grounds of 'free speech' . In other words: free speech for Nazis, but not for communists. She also offered me the daft argument that it was logically impossible for anyone now to be a nazi because this term referred to members of the NSDAP, which was liquidated with the defeat of the Third Reich in 1945. Whether we should see this nonsense as being in spite of or because of her having an Oxford Philosophy degree is another question.
The reponse of students to the pro-Hitler article was to deny its plain meaning. I pointed out that the phrase 'international web of abstract finance' was nazispeak for 'the world Jewish conspiracy' and that therefore the following passage was a call fro a world 'free' of Jews and that meant a new Shoah:
the whole point of Hitler's philosophy is that we are running out of space for men and women to live as their ancestors lived; free from credit, debt and interest, free from the international web of abstract finance (Dominick Heriz, 'Thus Spoke Adolf the Great', The Trumpet, No 2, February 2004)The typical response to this was the banality that 'I'd like to live without debt' , folllowed by 'that's only your interpretation, you can't say that it means that, differernt people read things differently'. These words were uttered by Debbie Hollingsworth, then 'president' of the 'student union' which published this. I pointed out that because Ancient Greece was a culture based on slavery, the following was a call for the institution of slavery.
Somewhere, there is a parallel universe where a non-racist Hitler has turned the Earth back into a classical paradise, where it is everyone's duty to perfect themselves and where culture is more valuable than money. (ibid)She responded with: 'Well, that's only your interpretation, "classical" could mean anything, you have classic cars and Shakespeare was a classic. I mean, if someone went on "blah! blah! blah! with racist stuff then of course I'd say something, of course I'm anti-racist" '. This was just so emblematic of 'political correctness': a knee-jerk (there's another phrase from the conservative lexicon which I cannot better) anti-racism, coupled with a complicity with the basic assumptions of fascism. Given this, we should not be surprised at the pro-Palestinianism of the alternistas. Nor should we be surprised at their imbecilic calls for a 'local economy'.
The real nature of that sensibility which you call ‘political correctness’ is elided by the way in which you, and those like you characterise it (google <campaign against political correctness> to see more of this). To grasp this sensibility we need to return to its roots in the culture of the CPGB. The most interesting account of this is by, appropriately, Ruskin’s most respected and famous author, the late Raphael Samuel. His three-part study published in New Left Review in the mid 1980s was a fine illustration of Hegel’s remark that a world can only be comprehended when its creative potential is finished - the shades of night were well down upon that culture. His study was both an evocation and obituary for that tradition he grew up in. His central insight into the real dynamic of the sensibility institutionalised in the CPGB was summarised in a quote from a character in Doris Lessing’s The Golden Notebook:
The Communist Party is largely composed of people who aren’t really political at all, but have a powerful sense of service
(Raphael Samuel, ‘The Lost World of British Communism’, New Left Review, No 154, November/December 1985, p 46; Quoting The Golden Notebook, 1977, p177)
In other words, the political culture of Stalinism was not at all about the taking of state power to effect the transition to a new order, it was of the same kind as that which formed the Labour Party. Confirmation of this was given in a TV programme a few years ago which showed the outrage of CPGB and Trotskyist activists that their rhetoric had actually been taken at its face-value by the Brit state - they had been targeted by the secret services (SHOCK! HOOROR! OUTRAGE!).
Samuel himself made a remarkable statement at a conference in 1987 to reflect on the New Left of thirty years earlier. He commented that:
I’m a lifelong socialist, but I actually lost faith in socialism about thirty years ago, in the sense that I haven’t wanted to live in a socialist society since sometime about the mid fifties. If I thought we were about to have a socialist Britain, I am not at all sure what, as a socialist, I would feel about it .. What I care about is a socialist movement. What I care about is socialism as a metaphor for solidarity, for opposition and for collectivism.
(Raphael Samuel, 'Then and Now', in Robin Archer et al, Out of Apathy: Voices of the New Left Thirty Years On, Verso, 1989, p149) (for more on this, see http://david-murray.livejournal.com/1451.html)
This really is the core and the dynamic of that which is so poorly characterised as ‘political correctness’: A sham solidarity which denies the reality of class order. Emblematic of this is the (so far as I know) painless shift of Peter Tatchell from the avowedly anti-cap Labour Left to the avowedly pro-cap Green Party.
What is remarkable is that the denial of class-struggle is common both to the proponents of that which is called ‘Political Correctness’ and those who so tediously diss it. I’m aware as I look back over this how far I am from really grasping what ‘Political Correctness’ is about. Here may be another clue: For another characterisation of this sensibility, at the level of the State, see Correlli Barnett’s ‘Decline and Fall’ series of historical studies of the Brit state in the mid of the last century. His major claim is that the possibility of national regeneration after the defeat of the Third Reich was thrown away by the softy lefty policies of the Attlee administration, continuing the anti-technological and idealist pacifist policies of the League of Nation folk (ie the “Politically Correct” of their day). When I first read it I was gripped by this claim (as were many others). However, it has been shown (just about as conclusively as such things can be) by David Edgerton that every one of Barnett’s claims are false: that since at least the Dreadnought programme the Brit state has pursued a policy of 'liberal militarism', preparing for hitech warfare. The really remarkable thing about Barnett’s thesis (and its more general form, the Barnett/Weiner thesis) is how and why these became so popular and rapidly became such a part of political commonsense. Part of the answer must be because the Brit state has for so long adopted the camouflage of being nonmilitarist (as against those Continental johnnies) when in fact it has not lost a major war since 1783.
The analogy I am suggesting is that the Barnett/Weiner Thesis is like those who diss 'political correctness', and that what they both fail to realise is that what they set themselves up against is actually another form of their own conservatism, but masqueing itself as being oppositional.
The Attlee administration has for long been the lost land of Cokaygne for those who live in Ruskania. But that government was actually quite the opposite of how they constructed it. It continued the policy of high-tech militarism by commencing the A-bomb programme; its NHS was a policy of Bismarck’s; its nationalisation policies were actually an aid to capitalism. The pieties of those who valorise that government, far from being remotely subversive are actually an important part of the Hegemony. It's worth noting that the apologist for Nazism, Debbi Hollingsworth, mentioned above is a Labour leftist and training to join the social-worker arm of The Police.
That which is called “Political correctness” is not remotely subversive. Anti-racism is now the commonsense of the Hegemony; Capital does not care what the colour of its ‘hands’ are. You, and those like you, who take on ‘political correctness’ are actually helping its self-legitimation. 'Political Correctness', aka the culture of the alternistas, is actually part of the shamshow of opposition - a vacuuous charade whose members will always refuse the moment of decision.
The world is not only stranger than we imagine, but stranger than (some of us) can imagine.
||[Mar. 23rd, 2007|01:32 pm]
Did Roth loose the plot?
Philip Roth, The Plot Against America, Vintage 2005, ISBN 0-099-47856-0
Philip Roth is one of modern America’s best-known novelists, famed for his comic Portnoy’s Complaint and his Pullitzer Prize trilogy beginning with American Pastoral. The Plot Against America was inspired by a remark in Arthur Schlesinger’s autobiography that in 1940 isolationist Republicans had considered inviting Charles Lindbergh to put himself forward as a presidential candidate. Roth asks ‘What if ?’ This novel is his answer.
After Lindberg arrived at Paris following the first solo flight across the Atlantic he became ‘the most famous man alive’. His achievement and his person became an icon which expressed the fantasies both of conservatives (he was a teetotal nonsmoker who did not dance, was a ‘real gent’) and of modernists (the Nietzschean hero incarnating his will in technology to perform an act whose meaning was itself) (1). This fusion of contraries renders it unsurprising that he became an admirer of that political movement, National Socialism, whose rhetoric and theatre fabricated that same fusion. Nothing is made of this cultural meaning of Lindbergh by Roth, who instead Roth does focusses on Lindbergh’s anti-semitism and admiration for Hitler.
The shock nomination of Lindbergh at the Republican Party convention is seen through the eyes of a young ‘Philip Roth’ in this imagined alternate world. Roth writes a fragment of his autobiography with a lovingly textured attention to the details of everyday life. The family of the fictional narrator ‘Philip Roth’ is the actual family of real author Philip Roth. This realism of the everyday seems to transmit a verisimilitude to the imagined history of his alternate world, where just one event appears to transform the political and cultural landscape. The narrator’s father is a staunch anti-fascist who refuses promotion because this would mean the family relocating to a neighbourhood which had a strong section of the German-American Bund – a pro Nazi group. His mother is a community activist; one of the powerful features of this novel is the picture it gives of the life of a mother in a time not far from ours.
Lindbergh wins the Presidential election by a landslide. He signs peace treaties with The Third Reich and with Japan. At home he institutes a policy aimed to erode Jewish identity be establishing the Office of American Absorption which encourages Jewish boys to spend time working on farms. This causes a major split in the Roth family as his elder brother, Sandy, enlists in this programme and comes home with a changed accent, having got used to eating bacon and insisting to his outraged father that nothing has really changed in America and that his father is a ‘ghetto Jew’. His aunt works for, and then marries, Rabbi Bengelsdorf. This is the only major figure in the narrative who does not have a counterpart in the real history. His role is critical both in the world which is constructed by the narrative of The Plot and in the … plotting, in the articulation, of the novel itself.
Bengelsdorf is a conservative who wishes to curry favour with the American elite and does so by endorsing the candidature of Lindbergh. This not only neutralises Jewish hostility to him, but ensures the support of liberal Americans, in the words of Philip’s cousin, Alvin, he succeeded in ‘Koshering Lindberg for the goyim’.
There is little opposition to the rule of Lindberg, what there is centres on the unlikely figure of Walter Winchel, a muck-raking journalist and anti-fascist. Winchel promotes himself as a stalking-horse presidential candidate, and then stands for congress. His denunciation of the President as a fascist leads to antisemitic riots. Finally, he is assassinated. Shortly after this point in the novel the first-person narrative is broken by another narrative – no longer in the first person, but in the form of summaries ‘Drawn from the Archives of Newark’s Newsreel Theatre’. This change in viewpoint accompanies a change in the mode of verisimilitude. From the seeming authenticity of Roth’s alternative autobiography we shift to a story which reads like the synopsis of a Tom Clancy novel: Lindberg embarks on a national flying tour to counter the sympathy for Winchel; he disappears; the vice-president mounts a coup backed by the military; liberals and labour leaders are arrested; Lindberg’s wife escapes from custody and broadcasts a denunciation of the coup. Congress calls a new election which Roosevelt wins by a landslide. The Japanese military strike Pearl Harbour in late 1942 and history is back on course.
The narrative then shifts back to the first-person and Roth relates a story told to his mother by her sister, who learnt it from Rabbi Bengelsdorf who was a confidant of Lindberg’s wife. This is a story which Tom Clancy would have rejected as wildly implausible; that the kidnapping of Lindberg’s child in 1932 was actually carried out by agents of the Third Reich who took the baby to Germany and blackmailed Lindberg into accepting the presidential candidacy. However, Lindberg turns out be be insufficiently antisemitic, merely – in Himmler’s words - ‘a dinner-party antisemite’, so his ‘disappearance’ is arranged.
The Plot Against America is actually two narratives. Shifting from one to the other is like putting down one book and opening another. The ‘Clancy’ narrative is ridiculously implausible in many ways. Its function can only be to fictively get history back onto course (what is know in the jargon of alternate-history buffs as a ‘second-order counterfactual’). However this narrative destablises itself by containing the story that the political career of Lindberg was choreographed by the Third Reich. Yet this revelation is itself sourced only from the Rabbi Bengelsdorf, who later wrote it up in My Life Under Lindberg. It is significant that Roth mentions that his mother heard it from her sister ‘her source none other than Anne Morrow Lindberg’ – yet a few lines later it is made clear that the aunt heard it from her husband Rabbi Bengelsdorf. Confused by this …. ? Well, the more I re-read and re-think on The Plot Against America the more confused I became.
It would be charitable to think that all of this was an artful strategy to promote a postmodernist scepticism toward historical narratives - in reality the only reasonable construction of it is that Roth has dug his narrative into a hole and needs a Heath-Robinson device to extract it.
Here we have a fine writer who publishes a novel which is clearly on issues close to his heart which yet uses the clumsiest of plot devices to alter what seems to be an inexorable movement. It is significant that the ‘Philip Roth’ who narrates the story announces the shift with the remark that: ‘then it was over. The nightmare was over. Lindberg was gone and we were safe’. On participant at the Book Club commented that: ‘The first thing you learn at school about writing a story is to avoid the ending that declares the whole story was a dream ... but that is what Roth does in this book’. So what is going on here? Is this just a clumsy device ? Do we accept that a fine writer can sometimes be a bad writer ? Or perhaps it was deliberately clumsy - pardon the oxymoron. What do we make of the bizarre conspiracy story that Lindberg had all along been a puppet, and yet the status of this is undermined as soon as it is uttered ?
It is often remarked that there is a sense in which all historiography is about its contemporary world, as well as about the past which is its ostensibly subject. This is even more so of alternate history – this is inherently ‘presentist’ (2). So what is The Plot Against America saying about the America of the early and mid noughties ? It is noteworthy that conservatives have tended to excoriate the novel and for liberals and leftists to praise it (3). One reviewer points out that there are a number of ‘easy parallels between Lindbergh in his airplane and Bush in his flight suit’ (4). However, this parallel actually shows just the opposite of what the reviewer intended: No-one can take seriously George W Bush as an aviation hero and no-one can seriously see a real parallel between Moslems in present-day America and Jews in that of the novel, or indeed under the Third Reich. Anyway, the central political appeal of the novel’s Lindberg was his campaign against overseas involvement of the American military ... so where is the parallel with Bush?
Indeed the implausibility of the ‘Clancy’ part of the novel is actually echoed by the central political story of the main narrative. For an allohistorical construction to be plausible the event which triggers the shift of history from its actual course onto another one must not be dependent on the situation which it causes (5). In fact it is utterly implausible that the massively popular Roosevelt would have been defeated in 1940. Fascism does not just arrive out of a clear blue sky - in Italy, Germany and Spain it was a response to a strong working-class movement which was contesting state power. That was not the situation in 1940 America. The central event of this allonarative, the election of Lindbergh, is only plausible given the situation which it engenders. Indeed the cental axis of this narrative is Lindberg, his subversion by the Third Reich, his election and his disappearance. This takes the 'great man' theory of history so seriously as to ignore a key absurdity in the 'backplot' of the novel, ie that the UK continues fighting the Third Reich even when it receives no material support from the USA - in fact, by the middle of 1940 the British State was unable, financially to continue the war in the absence of American aid.
This novel surely evinces a curious fascination with the Great Man, to such an extent as to marginalise material concerns. Lindberg is constructed as a kind of American Mussolini who comes to power by the force of his own 'charisma'. This is to indulge in a kind of cosy liberal paranoia, whereby fascism can arrive at any time out of a clear sky (6). At least part of the function of this is to create an Other, against which liberals can smugly contrast themselves. As the political villain of this story is Lindberg, so its hero is Roosevelt, yet it was he, not a fascist decorated by Hitler, who did, in actual fact ‘actually did consign an entire ethnic group to hinterland internment camps’ (7). The strategic function of this conceit is to elide the complicity which liberals have so often show to fascism (and indeed Stalinism). Similarly Roth must have been aware that the real Walter Winchell ended his political life as an odious McCarthyite who denounced Josephine Baker to the FBI as a communist agent.
Artistically and politically this novel is a failure. It is intellectually flabby and morally suspect. Its virtue is to show the falsity of the common accusation that alternate history is merely the making up of stories. Taken seriously, it shows that such a story must have an internal consistency and plausibility.
(1) See, esp Ch 8 of Modris Eksteins, Rites of Spring, Bantam Press, 19189.
(2) Gavriel D Rosenfeld, The World Hitler Never Made, Cambridge University Press, 2005
(3) See the reviews cited in the Wikipedia entry for the novel. Also <www.reviewsofbooks.com/plot_against_america> (accessed 10 March 07)
(4) Ross Douthat, ‘It Didn’t Happen Here’, Policy Review, Feb- March 2005,. at <http://www.theamericanscene.com/pubs/pr2-305.html> (accessed 10 March 07).
(5) An example of such an alloevent which is clearly independent of its consequences was Churchill being killed by the taxicab which hit him in 1931, and Halifax becoming Prime Minister in May 1940. See Williamson Murray, ‘What a Taxi Driver Wrought’, in Robert Cowley (ed.) What If?, Pan Books 2001, and Andrew Roberts, ‘Prime Minister Halifax’, in Robert Cowley (ed.) More What If?, Pan Books, 2003.
(6) There is a similar absurdity central to the recent movie V for Vendetta – see especially Stephen Fry in his interview on the DVD version.
||[Sep. 22nd, 2006|04:17 pm]
It is often said that human behaviour is unpredictable - indeed, it is entirely predictable that this will be said when the issue of a science of humanity arises - but the following prediction is one which I have yet to find falsified: Whenever the issue of Nietzsche’s politics is raised there were will one, or both, of these responses:
1) His work is an ‘open text’ in that any statement in it will be contradicted somewhere else. I will not pursue this, but challenge anyone who holds it to find contrary statements to those which I will cite.
2) That the basis for the NSDAP’s appropriation of Nietzsche is the falsification by his sister of his later MSS, mainly those published under the English title of The Will to Power. This point is refuted by the fact that the current scholarly edition of that work is edited by two of his leading English apologists, Walter Kaufman and R J Hollingdale. This edition contains a number of remarks which are entirely in accord with the philosophy of National Socialism, and are in no way disowned by his liberal apologists,
The reason that this matters is because a persistent theme in recent European and American academia has been to deny, or to excuse, the Nazi affiliations of a number of figures in European high culture over the last century or so: Nietzsche, C J Jung, Martin Heidegger, Leni Reifenstahl - whose Nazi affiliations are as plain as can be 
. The basic reason for this, it seems to me, is clear: It is majorly important for many to present Hitler and National Socialism as inexplicable aberrations in the normal order of European history and politics - as if they had dropped out of a clear sky like an asteroid-strike. From this position it then becomes necessary to deny that major European intellectuals and artists could have shared any of the central categories of Nazi philosophy. This is related to the fact that many histories of Europe - certainly in English - fail to explain the importance of the German Revolution of November 1918; indeed many will not even use the ‘R-word’ but will make some fumbling mention of ‘disturbances’, which somehow led to the abdication of Kaiser Wilhelm and the founding of the Weimar Republic. Its importance is that the failure of the SDP to carry-through the November Revolution enabled the re-grouping of the ‘old order’ which initially used the NSDAP, only to be engulfed by it.
In order to understand National Socialism it is necessary to grasp that many of its central positions were advanced by major European intellectuals and that many of its views are extreme versions of ideas which are the commonplaces of the conservative mind-set. The failure to take this seriously is, it seems to me, a feature of the present-day which is vastly more dangerous than the episodic racism which liberals and soft-leftists spend so much energy in denouncing.
Nietzsche and Bismarck
I experienced this blindness to the actual politics of Nietzsche a few months ago at a meeting of the Oxford Philosophy Society. I mentioned that when Nietzsche criticised Bismarck - a fact often cited by his apologists and liberal falsifiers - this was not at all because Bismarck was the architect of the militarist Prussian Empire; but was because Bismarck was insufficiently imperialist: for Nietzsche, the ‘iron chancellor’ was too soft. This point was rejected as being just obviously wrong. So this is a good place to look at Nietzsche’s actual position.
One of the major critics of Nietzsche, George Lukács, writes 
This era which Nietzsche accused Bismarck of failing to understand was to be the era of great wars … Bismarck was not militarist enough for Nietzsche … [his] Bismarck critique rested solely on the contention that Bismarck did not grasp the problems of the impending imperialist period, and was therefore incapable of solving them by way of reactionary aggression. He was, therefore, criticising Bismarck from the Right.
George Lukács, The Destruction of Reason, trans. Peter Palmer, Merlin Press, 1980, p340
The failing of Bismarck, for Nietzsche, was that he was too
German-minded, and was content to have merely unified Germany and to stop there 
; further that he had done so by paying lip-service to parliamentarianism and was thus pandering to the "mob".
Nietzsche was absolutely clear as to what he wanted:
such an increase in the Russian threat that Europe would have to resolve to become equally threatening, namely to acquire a single will by means of a new caste dominating all Europe .. so that the long-drawn-out comedy of its petty states and the divided will of its dynasties and democracies should finally come to an end. The time for petty politics is past: the very next century will bring it the grand struggle for mastery over the whole earth - the compulsion to grand politics.
(Beyond Good and Evil §208; Hollingdale trans., Penguin, 1982, p119)
This position is echoed in a contemporary MSS, published as The Will to Power:
would it not be a kind of goal, redemption and justification for the democratic movement itself if someone arrived who could make use of it - by finally producing .. a higher kind of dominating and Caesarian spirits who would stand upon it, maintain themselves by it, and elevate themselves through it?
(§954, Kaufman & Hollingdale trans., Vintage, 1968, p501)
It was surely a neat 'eternal recurrence' that the Caesar who did so - who climbed up the ladder and then kicked it away - was then, in his turn, to be rejected by the greatest philosopher of his movement - Martin Heidegger - as being insufficiently
national socialist 
. Nietzsche’s support for imperialist war was reiterated in Ecce Homo
, 'Why I am a Destiny' §1.
For Nietzsche, this need for war was driven by the cultural imperative that surplus-extraction be via slavery. This position is states as unambiguously as it could be in this passage from 'The Greek State':
In order for there to be a broad, deep, fertile soil for the development of art, the overwhelming majority has to be slavishly subjected to life's necessities in the service of the minority, beyond the measure that is necessary for the individual. At their expense, through their extra work, that privileged class is to be removed from the struggle for existence, in order to produce and satisfy a new world of necessities. … slavery belongs to the essence of a culture … the misery of men living a life of toil has to be increased to make the production of the word of art possible for a small number of Olympian men.
(On the Genealogy of Morality, trans. Carol Diethe, CUP, 1994, p178)
It is no co-incidence that this text appeared in that year when the Parisian people established the first workers’ rule and were then massacred by ‘the slaveholders’ conspiracy’ 
Nor is it a co-incidence that the cultural sensibility which routinely disses Marx as being responsible for Stalinism counts Nietzsche, Heidegger and Jung amongst its heroes; the work of all of these is saturated with the themes of National Socialism. Nor is it a co-incidence that the state whose academies are 'dominated' by the first two of these 
is now answering Nietzsche’s question: 'Who will be the lords of the earth?' .
How National Socialists interpret Nietzsche
To show the blindness of liberals to the real politics of Nietzsche I have on, a couple of occasion when giving lectures on Nietzsche, began by saying that Nietzsche’s philosophy is difficult to summarise, but that I will try to give a rough introduction. I then give the following presentation (indented text), which I pretend is in my own words, but is n fact largely made up of direct quotes from pro-Nietzsche Nazis (in italic text). I include some quotes from Nietzsche (in bold text) and linking comments of my own (in plain text). I have then asked the audience if they think this is an acceptable way to present Nietzsche. On both occasions, there was no dissent from this. I then point out that they have just agreed that a Nazi reading of Nietzsche is actually correct
Text in italic: quotes from sources given
Text in bold: quotes from Nietzsche
Text in regular: my own gloss on the quotes
After each quote I give the source, but only read these out at the end, after the audience had agreed that this was a fair summary of Nietzsche.
Nietzsche's thinking and writing was done for the purpose of gaining spiritual freedom for himself and others like him. Freedom: That means to become free of the old moral values and biases. Such old values originated in decadence … (p 12)
Nietzsche was a revolutionary who stood for a new world of pure values based on the idea of a philosopher who lived his ideas. This new world will involve a catastrophic break with the old. In Zarathustra, he writes that:
He who wants to be a creator in good and evil, truly, he must first be a destroyer and smash values.
True revolutionary change occurs only when preceded or accompanied by a change in spiritual values. The creator of new values is thus the truest revolutionary … (p 14)
To know a man, and the writings of a philosopher, requires first of all that you know his leading idea (p 15)
For Nietzsche, this arose out of his insight into the greatness of Classical Greek humanity, he recognised Greek culture:
As the expression and result of a truly exuberant life - which he termed 'Dionysian'- of human beings who were stronger, fuller and sounder than anyone living at his time. Furthermore, he saw that true human greatness is inseparable from strength and other virtues largely condemned by modern Christian and democratic concepts. (p 15)
Nietzsche emphasises the importance of spiritual strength and standing against a culture premised on mediocrity.
The strongest individuals are those who oppose and resist society's general trends and rules, the rules of the majority, and successfully struggle against them.(p16)
ITALICISED TEXT FROM:
Bruno Luedtke, 'Nietzsche and National Socialism - Letters to an American Friend' Pt I, National Socialist, No 1, Summer 1980
(this was the journal of the American National Socialist Party)
Nietzsche realized that all sound feelings in Man, all natural values, have been perverted into their opposite by Christianity and thus promote the degeneration of life instead of its further rises (p 22) …
Man must now go on to something much higher than he is at present. Nietzsche saw the propagation of this idea as one of his primary missions in life … (p 22)
This higher being of the future, or the higher race of the millennia to come, was called Uebermensch by Nietzsche. The English term 'superman is a rather bad translation, and the popular conception of it has nothing to do at all with what Nietzsche meant by Uebermensch ' …
Toward this aim of upbreeding mankind Nietzsche sought the restoration of natural values .. as opposed to the unnatural and artificial Christian morality. True goodness, he felt, is exemplified by the proud, strong, healthy, self-confident man who says 'Yes' to life. (p 22)
Bruno Luedtke , 'Nietzsche and National Socialism - Letters to an American Friend' Pt II, National Socialist, No 2, Fall 1980
The foundations of Christian morality - religious individualism, a guilty conscience, meekness, concern for the eternal salvation of the soul - all are absolutely foreign to Nietzsche. (p 98) …
Nietzsche's 'values' have nothing to do with the Beyond, and therefore cannot be petrified into dogma. In ourselves, through us, they rise struggling to the surface; they exist only as long as we make ourselves responsible for them. When Nietzsche warns 'Be true to the Earth !' he reminds us of the idea that is rooted in our strength but does not hope for 'realization' in a distant Beyond (p 99)
Alfred Baeumler, Studien zur deutschen Geistesgeschichte, in George L Mosse, Nazi Culture, Schocken, New York, 1981
Yet what has happened in 'the West' is that generation after generation were nurtured by Christian myths and stories - myths and stories which, put bluntly, exhort the virtues of the meek, the coward and the idiot, as Nietzsche and others have described. It is safe to say that we are and have suffered from the effects of this centuries-old indoctrination - an indoctrination continued in this present century by the spread of other ideas rooted, like Christianity, in the ethos of another race. These ideas are, of course, liberalism and Marxian-socialism.
David Myatt, Early Essays ,
We live in a culture which denigrates the exceptional and celebrates the mediocre. The genius of modern science has, paradoxically enabled a form of life in which the healthy will to affirmation and achievement has become stifled in the physical and cultural products of mass culture. To escape from this crisis demands .. a 'higher type' of man, of the kind foreseen by Nietzsche but rejected by most of his contemporaries and ours. It must be a type of man capable of rising above the solipsist clamour of the mob, and also above the temptations to ease and comfort offered by the push-button era. What we need, in effect, is a new species of aristocracy, possessing the will to live again in harmony with nature, and to direct society in accordance with that imperative. (p 410)
John Tyndall, The Eleventh Hour - A Call for British Rebirth,
Albion Press, n.d., but Foreword written in 1988 
Nietzsche’s Support for Slavery, War and Despotism
To show that none of these readings are inconsistent with the actual postion of Nietzsche, here is some textual evidence (there is more) for my claim that the NSDAP's reception of Nietzsche has far more merit than the liberal one. I will let Nietzsche speak for himself in those words which are so conspicuously ignored by his liberal apologists.
'The Greek State' (1871) is conveniently available in the edition of On the Genealogy of Morality in the series Cambridge Texts in the History of Political Thought (1994). This short essay clearly extols the virtue of slavery as a precondition for the development of culture. Note that this work was written in the year of the Paris Commune which was a working-class revolt which was seen , at the time, to be as threatening to the established order as - for several decades - was the Russian Revolution of 1917.
In order for there to be a broad, deep, fertile soil for the development of art, the overwhelming majority has to be slavishly subjected to life's necessities in the service of the minority, beyond the measure that is necessary for the individual. At their expense, through their extra work, that privileged class is to be removed from the struggle for existence, in order to produce and satisfy a new world of necessities. … slavery belongs to the essence of a culture … the misery of men living a life of toil has to be increased to make the production of the word of art possible for a small number of Olympian men.
Beyond Good and Evil (1886)
Every elevation of the type "man" has hitherto been the work of an aristocratic society - and so it will always be: a society which believes in a long scale of orders of rank and differences of worth between man and man and needs slavery in some sense or other (sect 257)
The essential thing in a good and healthy aristocracy is, however that is does not feel itself to be a function (of the monarchy or of the commonwealth) but as their meaning and supreme justification - that it therefore accepts with a good conscience the sacrifice of innumerable men who for its sake have to be suppressed and reduced to imperfect men, to slaves and instruments. Its fundamental faith must be that society should not exist for the sake of society but only as a foundation and scaffolding upon which a select species of being is able to raise itself to its higher task and in general to a higher existence (sect 258)
The Genealogy of Morality (1887)
The knightly-aristocratic value judgements presuppose a powerful physicality, a flourishing, abundant, even overflowing health, together with that which serves to preserve it: war, adventure, hunting, dancing, war games … All that has been done on earth against "the noble", "the powerful", "the masters", "the rulers", fades into nothing compared with what the Jews have done against them … with the Jews there begins the slave revolt in morality (1st essay, sect 7)
The Will to Power (1883 - 88) (Kaufmann & Hollingdale's edn., 1968)
A Declaration of war on the masses by higher men is needed ! Everywhere the mediocre are combining in order to make themselves master ! (p 458)
Finally: the social hodgepodge, consequence of the Revolution, the establishment of equal rights, of the superstition of "equal men" ... whoever still wants to retain power flatters the mob, works with the mob, must have the mob on its side (p 461)
…Once we posses that common economic management of the earth that will soon be inevitable, mankind will be able to find its best meaning as a machine in the service of this economy ... in opposition to this dwarfing and adaptation of man to a specialised utility, a reverse movement is needed .. this transformation of man into a machine is a precondition, as a base on which he can invent his higher form of being ... A dominating race can grow up only out of terrible and violent beginnings. Problem: where are the barbarians of the twentieth century ? Obviously they will come into being and consolidate themselves only after tremendous socialist crises (pp 463 - 5)
The apologists for Nietzsche claim, of course, that these quotes misrepresent Nietzsche. What they fail to do is cite texts which contradict or modify them. It is also said that I am premising the above on an "old fashioned" ideology of the text as containing its own meaning, rather than as being constructed in the act of reading ... and so … and so; fans of "genealogy" will recall that it is Nietzsche himself who is kowtowed to as the font of this fashionable nonsense.
The standard response by liberals to reference to the above remarks and similar is to ignore them, and those works which take them seriously. It is noteworthy here that Hollingdale 
, in the 1999 postscript to his seminal Nietzsche
, after praising Derrida continues: 'I have experienced nothing over the past thirty years that has led me to think that the account of Nietzsche's life and philosophy I give here is in need of correction except in a few small details.' There is no discussion of, or even reference to, Lukacs' The Destruction of Reason
, or to John Carey's The Intellectuals and the Masses
. So it appears that both a marxist philosopher and a conservative Professor of English are alike beneath notice in these postmodern times. Both of these works should be read by anyone who thinks that Nietzsche is innocent of the charge of being a philosopher whose thought was of the same kind as National Socialism. Also worth reading are Arno J Mayer’s, The Persistence of the Old Regime,
(Croom Helm, 1981), pp285-90 and Elizabeth Wiskemannn’s The Rome-Berlin Axis
, (Fontana, 1967), Ch 1
Nietzsche rightly holds that no philosophical stance is disinterested, but that it must express an attitude towards power (how he would have sneered at his softy acolytes in the Culture Studies Industry!). So what is my own interest? If the only choice were between 'master-morality' and 'slave-morality' then I would unashamedly choose the former. But I do not believe this is the choice. I am on the side of the (wage)slaves - not synonymous with being for 'slave-morality' - and for a societal order which is not premised on forced labour.
David Murray, September 200 for discussion on this, see posts to my blogwww.livejournal.com/users/david_murray
 A recent book by Sheldon Wolin shows the National Socialist affiliations of a number of the major thinkers who have formed Postmodernism. The strongest example of this is Martin Heidegger, who was actually a member of the NSDAP.  It should be realised that this book itself is controversial. It was written at a time when Lukács, a leading marxist philosopher, was an apologist for Stalin.
 Robert K Massie, Dreadnought, Jonathan Cape, 1992, p76
 An Introduction to Metaphysics, trans. Ralph Mannheim, Anchor Books, 1962, p159.
Nietzsche was suggesting that perhaps democracy - which he hated - might have a purpose in world history if it produced a new dictator - a Caesar - who would use democratic methods to attain power, and then abolish democracy. This is precisely what was done by the NSDAP. ‘Eternal recurrence’ is one of Nietzsche’s most famous notions - to my mind a banality which shows that he does not deserve to be taken seriously. The point here is that Martin Heidegger - who some regard as one of the greatest philosophers of the last century - was actually a member of the Nazi party, which he celebrated in his famous rectorial address at Freiburg University. Shortly afterwards he came to reject Hitler as not being enough of a real National Socialist. Yes, you read it correctly! One of today’s most fashionable philosophers thought that Hitler was not Nazi enough !!
The reference to the ladder is to the closing remarks in Ludwig Wittgenstein’s Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus where he states that anyone who has understood the book so far will realise that - on its own account of language - it is nonsense and is like a ladder, to be pushed away once it has being used to climb up to a higher level of understanding.
 Karl Marx, The Civil War in France, in The First International and After, Penguin, 1981, p221
 ie the USA. On the poisonous influence of Nietzsche, see Alan Bloom’s , The Closing of the American Mind, Penguin, 1987. Bloom is an American conservative, who was a great influence on Francis Fukuyama’s The End of History and the Last Man
 David Myatt is the leading theorist of National Socialism in the UK, see Nick Lowles, White Riot - The Violent Story of Combat 18, Milo Books, 2003 (Combat 18 is the most extreme and violent Nazi group in the UK). Like Nietzsche, Myatt is an admirer of the Hindu caste system. It is important to realise that much of what is often taken as an indigenous Indian institution was actually strengthened in the last half of the 19th C by the British colonial administrators – see David Cannadine’s Ornamentalism on this.
 Tyndall was the leading fascist in postwar Britain. He formed the National Front, the party which became the British National Party. This book is his attempt to write an English Mein Kampf - it is essential reading to understand the sensibility of fascism
 R J Hollingdale, along with Walter Kaufman, is one of the leading English- language translators of Nietzsche’s works and a leading apologist for his philosophy.
||[Sep. 7th, 2006|05:11 pm]
A course of eight evening classes, organised by the South Place Ethical Society (Humanist educational charity), presented by David Murray.
Beginning 10 October 2006
We will consider some of the most powerful images in European philosophy, as a way of thinking about linked themes around the nature of knowledge and of modernity.
The focus will not be on textual exposition, but on using the images as a basis for discussion and exploration. Though there will be some connection between sessions each one will be free-standing, in that it can be followed on its own.
PLATO’s Cave 10 October
This powerful image of the non-philosophical vision as chained to an illusory world of images functioned to legitimate a despotic state. But can we use it to critique a media-saturated world?
HUME’s ‘All Things Are Loose And Separate’ 17 October
It’s hard to overestimate the extent to which this Enlightenment figure articulates the most unreflective everyday commonsense. But is it really surface all the way down?
HEGEL’s Owl Of Minerva 24 October
For Hegel, philosophy can only arise when the societal order which is its object has taken final shape. Does philosophy have any leverage on the world? Is history at an end?
MARX’s ‘All That Is Solid Melts Into Air’ 31 October
This remarkable image, in his paen to the revolutionary nature of the business-class, pictures capitalism as swept by waves of ‘creative destruction’. And yet … it seems so solid: which is the actuality?
ENGELS’ Escalator 7 November
Progress is not what it used to be … i.e. is not at all. The idea that history has a direction - or is even intelligible - is now routinely dissed by historians and philosophers. Is there anything at all to be saved from this notion?
DARWIN’s Entangled Bank 14 November
The Origin ends with an intricate picture of immense organic complexity generated by the operation of a single principle. This picture has been taken as a model for a societal totality. But is there such a thing?
WITTGENSTEIN’s Ladder 21 November
At the close of one of the strangest works of philosophy its author, like a Zen master, urges us to bin it once we have understood it. How come this seeming rigorous philosophy licences mysticism?
WEBER’s ‘Iron Cage’ 28 November
Is Alasdair McIntyre correct in his assessment of Weber as providing the common-sense of our epoch by coupling technological reason with an irrational choice of ends?
Classes begin on Tuesday, 10 October 2006.
Meet @ 18:30 for prompt 19:00 start. Classes finish @ 21:00.
The Library, Conway Hall Humanist Centre, Red Lion Sq, London WC1.
A text for each class will be available at the preceding one. That for the first one will be available at the discussion blog for the course, here:
Further information from: 07985 ******
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